Biglaw bonuses at Kirkland & Ellis Disappoint

Biglaw bonuses at Kirkland & Ellis Disappoint

Despite the bonus season producing some record bonuses, reports from Kirkland & Ellis, one of the biggest of the big money bonus payers previously, have been somewhat disappointing.

Reports from legal media, including AbovetheLaw, show that despite the firm’s massive revenues, amount last year to 4.83 billion,  the bonuses paid were lower than most associates appear to have expected.

Kirkland & Ellis has added $680m to its top line revenues, beating Latham & Watkins to hold its position as the world’s highest grossing law firm.  Revenues in 2020 surged from $4.14 billion in 2019 with a record-breaking 2020 year, so associates could reasonably be expected to anticipate some healthy bonuses to come.

The firm does not award lockstep bonuses but will generally make payments of around 30 – 40 per cent over the market scale according to ATL, as a usual bonus payment percentage.

Although the above market payments were made for those reporting 2000 hours or more, the actual payments were modest.

Among the reports were a mid-level associate reporting a bonus of about 10 per cent on a 2800 hour year, while another reported 15 per cent, which are lower than those reported at some of the other biglaw firms.

So not only is KE no long a market leader in bonuses, we’re not even matching the bumps that firms like Baker M, Dechert, and Cadwalder are giving out for high billers. And that’s despite higher-than-ever revenue, profit, and all the #1 rankings. Won’t be putting in those hours again.

K&E Associate, as reported by ATL

What has become apparent in the bonus season from Biglaw is that some of the boutique law firms are paying over-the-top compared to the traditional bonus payments from large law firms like K&E.

For instance, litigation boutique Michael Kellogg has paid a shade under $300,000 for its four senior classes with junior associates at the firm taking home more money than the Biglaw firms.


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